2009 wasn't a banner year for many position groups on the Titans' roster, but the one group that shined as a whole was the offensive line. Despite a few uneven performances early on, they consistently played at a high level in both phases of the game. They also continued a tough-to-underestimate trend of staying remarkably healthy, on the whole.
Of course, the first thing you can point to was the 2,006 yard rusher they paved the way for. But perhaps more impressive was the way the line adapted to the insertion of Vince Young.
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After a year of focusing on making a textbook pocket for Kerry Collins, the O-line seamlessly adjusted to Young's improvisational, mobile style with tremendous success. According to Football Outsiders, the unit was the 3rd best in the league at pass protection, allowing a sterling adjusted sack rate of 3.7%. That put them behind the Colts and Patriots, and above the Saints and Chargers. Those teams all feature elite pocket QBs with a preternatural sense of avoiding the rush. Vince Young hasn't been that: in 2007 he was sacked 25 times in 15 starts, which is 10 more than our line allowed all year in 2009.
While 2,006 yards should say it all for the O-line's run blocking, it really doesn't. While the agility and ability to get to the second level we key in springing CJ2K to more big runs than any back in the league, they continued to struggle at the point of attack at times. The results were some schizophrenic run block metrics at FO. The line finished 28th in stuffs (runs of 0 or negative yards), but 7th and 1st in 2nd level and open field rankings respectively. Some of that you can put on CJ, but it's been a reoccurring theme with this group for years now; they just aren't built in that Cowboys, Vikings, Ravens mold of sun-blocking mountain movers. Instead they're somewhere between that and the Shanahan-era-Broncos mold of agile guards and center who move around to force the defense to react.
Individually, Michael Roos continued to cement himself as one of the best all-around left tackles in all of football. David Stewart continued to be a mauler, even if he was more mistake prone in this campaign (see the Pittsburgh game) and struggled with a hamstring injury in the middle of the year. Mawae showed why he'll be a sure-fire Hall of Famer, as the elder statesman of the unit continues to excel in the face of declining physical skills. Jake Scott and Eugene Amano both got pushed around at times, but both turned in very solid campaigns.
The personnel on the line has been remarkably consistent for the past few years, but that could definitely change this off-season. Once again it's tough to forecast what will happen until there's a firm decision on the CBA and the salary cap, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see either Amano or Mawae gone. Leroy Harris is waiting in the wings, and the team still seems high on 4th round draft pick Troy Kropog despite the fact that he was inactive most of the year. That gives us a lot of flexibility to make the best decision both financially and in terms of quality on the roster. Guys like Velasco and Otto provide nice depth, but don't look like they'll ever be NFL starters.